Last time I wrote about shifting gears from the largemouth-dominated tournaments early in this Elite season to the final two events, which promise to be smallmouth-dominated. As I said then, mentally there's really no difference in how I approach them even though the methods used are likely to be very different.

This week I want to talk about some of the big differences between fishing the man-made impoundments of the Deep South, where I grew up and still do a lot of my fishing, and the Great Lakes and other natural bodies of water that we have up north.

First I should tell you that I love them both. The fishing can be great on either, and I really enjoy the challenges they present. Having had the opportunity to fish the big, natural, glacially-created lakes of the north many times in my professional career, I can tell you that I look forward to it each time I come back. They're very different, and usually very productive.

Because the lakes up north were typically created by glaciers, they tend to be almost featureless. They have gradually sloping bottoms and depths that may change just a few feet over the course of several miles. On man-made impoundments, the structural changes are usually much more dramatic.

That makes locating fish on big natural lakes more of a challenge — at least for me. It also puts a real premium on your ability to use your electronics. If you don’t have your underwater eyes wide open, you'll miss the subtle little things that make a real difference up here.

The good news is that once you find them, the bass are typically pretty easy to catch. It's probably because they don't get a lot of pressure. You need to be patient and good with your electronics to find them — those are a couple of traits that not every angler you see at the boat has, and it keeps them from being successful.

Find the bass, and you can usually catch the bass — at least around here.

Of course, in the Elite Series, just about everyone is going to find bass. Having a good tournament is going to come down to whether or not you can find the right bass. By that I mean enough bass of the right size.

Smaller fish are easier to find than big fish because there are more of them. Finding enough big fish to last four days will be a serious challenge, but someone's going to do it. They always do.

Up north it's usually some little bitty thing that makes a very big difference. Here on the St. Lawrence River, it'll probably be finding things that break the current and create an ambush point for bass. On Lake St. Clair, it might be figuring out how to stay on top of a winning school of smallmouths that are moving with a school of baitfish.

I'm looking for those subtle things.

Cliff's notes:

The size of the key has nothing to do with the size of the door it unlocks.

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